Maronite Bishops: Syria is to Blame
Naharnet: The Maronite church blasted Syria's dictation of General Lahoud as president for three more years in Lebanon and demanded that the Syrian government withdraw its army from Lebanon and terminate its 28-year-old tutelage over the country. The outburst came in a statement released by the monthly conclave of the Maronite bishops under Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir at his summer residence in North Lebanon's Diman monastery. Describing as 'unconstitutional' the proposed constitutional amendment to extend Lahoud's term, the statement called on MPs to disregard the 'threats' they are receiving and to 'place before their conscience the future of their children' in the upcoming vote on the amendment. Turning to Syria, the bishops unleashed their heaviest yet tirade against its role in Lebanese politics.
"The Syrian army has been in Lebanon since 1976…and the Taef accord states that the Syrian army should withdraw from Lebanon two years after it was signed…but things are still the same," the statement read. The statement went on to say flatly that Syria deals with Lebanon as though it were a 'Syrian province', citing a quote from an unnamed Syrian newspaper that bragged Syria was the 'major, if not the only, voter in Lebanon'. "This statement was verified by the latest events, and Lebanonization has turned into pure Syrianization, devoid of any Lebanese opinions."
"While Syria may have helped Lebanon in some respects, it has exhausted it in others…as it appoints leaders, organizes elections, parliamentary and otherwise, includes and excludes whomever it wants, and interferes in all of Lebanon's sectors: administrative, judiciary, the economy, and especially politics, through its representative in it (Lebanon) and his aides, and compromises Lebanese interests in international forums, and protects the corrupt…
".. bribery has flourished, and the culture of corruption prospered as the Lebanese people, and especially the youth, immigrate in large numbers, and those who stay become poorer every day, and Lebanon is burdened by heavy debts that threaten its collapse, and if it collapses, Syria won't escape unscathed, and that is what we do not wish for Lebanon, or for Syria.
Drawing parallels between Syria's refusal to remain united with Jamal Abd al-Nasser's Egypt in the sixties of last century, and the current Lebanese fury at Syrian intervention in its affairs, the statement said that while the bishops do not wish to 'clear the Lebanese of any blame' or 'express hostility to Syria', good relations between the two countries must be based on mutual respect. Finally, it warned that "what harms Lebanon will definitely harm Syria, and will have negative implications for both countries." Beirut, Updated 31 Aug 04, 18:26